The Next 9 States to Legalize Marijuana

The United States is slowly reversing course on banning marijuana. Colorado led the way in passing laws that allow recreational use of marijuana and cannabis products, and now the opening of stores to sell marijuana for recreational use in Washington state has begun. If history over the last century or so dictates anything, it is that new laws passing (or old ones being overturned) are rarely isolated events in only one or two states.

24/7 Wall St. has decided to feature nine states that could be the next to pass laws allowing marijuana to be sold — and taxed — for recreational use. Recreational marijuana use may not be legalized nationwide any time soon, but it looks almost certain that there will be more than just two states in this burgeoning industry of recreational marijuana — and sooner rather than later.

In order to be counted as likely to be among the next states to legalize marijuana use, a state has to have several things already in place. First is that referendums and opinion polls are not good enough. Several states have had bills passed at one legislative level only to fail at others. Each state in question must already allow for the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Another condition is that each state has to be further along than just grassroots efforts fighting for legalization.

Some states are not even just neutral or lenient on marijuana. Individuals can be sentenced to jail time on top of fines for possessing even the smallest amounts of marijuana solely for personal use. The long and short of the matter is that Kansas, Texas, Utah and many others are unlikely to be statewide legal pot destinations any time soon, even if grassroots efforts are underway.

A 2013 Gallup poll showed that 58% of Americans now favor legalization. This was first time that a majority polled has been in favor of legalization in close to 50 years. As of July, two states now allow marijuana use for recreation, but 23 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana.

After considering this among many other socially changing initiatives seen in recent years, it looks likely that the efforts and trends toward legalization and further decriminalization will potentially be a battleground in the 2016 elections — and in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Before naming states outright here, several caveats should be considered. First is that this not even close to normal in politics — passage of many expected laws have been kicked down the road. There is also not a single up-to-the-minute source that seems to be 100% accurate on how far along every single state is. That being said, information was taken from local news reports and legislatures, as well as from sources such as ProCon.org, NORML.org, Mother Jones, the Marijuana Policy Project and other sites.

Maine could have been included on our list, but the issue remains on a local jurisdiction level and seems more subjective than in other states. We have listed these states alphabetically because of the process inside each state to legalize and decriminalize marijuana faces so many hurdles. What seems sure to be adopted can find itself suddenly blocked for one or any of too many reasons to easily count.

We have included the population of each state, as well as the 2013 Census recording of general sales and gross receipts taxes – excluding corporate, income tax, and documentation taxes. These are the next states likely to go further long in the legalization and decriminalization efforts beyond just medical marijuana use.

1. Alaska
> Pop. 735,000
> Sales tax undisclosed

Alaska has become somewhat of a surprise candidate for states up for marijuana legalization, partially via a legislative technicality. The state has a vote on the matter in November. The current form would allow those aged 21 and higher to buy marijuana at state-regulated stores, which would allow the state to tax and regulate marijuana similar to alcohol. Individuals would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, as well as to be allowed to grow very limited amounts in private. If approved in the current form, pot smoking in public would still be banned.

2. California
> Pop. 38.3 million
> Sales tax $33.91 billion

California has allowed medicinal marijuana with very lenient terms. The criteria are loose enough that many outsiders assume that the state allows marijuana use for recreation. Lighting a cigarette may come with taboos, but it is quite common to run across Californians and visitors smoking marijuana in public. Selling or growing pot can still land you with a felony on your record, and more widespread legalization efforts remain a work in progress. One interesting note: Berkeley recently voted to make medical marijuana dispensaries give a small amount of medical marijuana to the poor and homeless for free.

3. Maryland
> Pop. 5.93 million
> Sales tax $4.11 billion

Maryland joined the ranks of states that legalized medicinal marijuana in 2013, and more recently it decriminalized possession of small amounts under 10 grams. The medical marijuana treatment is still subjective and has not been universally adopted nor universally accepted by medical professionals. The more recent approval to decriminalize possession of under 10 grams of marijuana — taking effect in October — will still act almost the same as a minor speeding ticket. This is still well short of making the state change its name to Mary-Janeland.

4. Massachusetts
> Pop. 6.69 million
> Sales Tax $5.18 billion

Massachusetts allows for medical marijuana use in debilitating conditions with a state registration card. This is not as universally applied as some states. A House bill would legalize marijuana and tax it. The name Taxachusetts again comes up. The votes are still shown to be a small majority in favor, so the issue remains up in the air.

5. New Hampshire
> Pop. 1.32 million
> Sales tax undisclosed

New Hampshire has already signed a bill into law that legalized marijuana for medicinal use, but the restriction is that patients have to have a three-month history with a physician to cut down on the “journeying tourist patients.” The House previously passed decriminalization bills that were then stopped by the Senate. Efforts to possess under an ounce for personal use remain underway, but it is unclear if these will move further along later in 2014 or if it will be pushed out to 2016.

6. New York
> Pop. 19.65 million
> Sales tax $12.11 billion

It may seem like a surprise that New York would be on the list of states set to approve marijuana use, but the state recently passed medical marijuana approval under the Compassionate Care Act, becoming the 23rd state to allow for some form of medical marijuana use. Currently this is on a non-smokable form of approval. If New York, and New York City, realize the taxes on top of tobacco sales now, the effort is likely to face lower hurdles.

7. Oregon
> Pop. 3.93 million
> Sales tax undisclosed

Oregon is another state where many might have already thought marijuana laws had already passed. The state has had some of the nation’s most liberal policies, treating small amounts of possession almost the same as a speeding ticket, dating back to the 1980s and 1970s. Legislation to legalize marijuana previously failed and is up for vote late in 2014. If voter turnout is high enough, legalization efforts here seem favorable for approval — if the matter is not pushed out until the next local round of elections.

8. Rhode Island
> Pop. 1.05 million
> Sales tax $881 million

Rhode Island allows personal use and cultivating for medical marijuana needs, and bipartisan support was there in its legislature to legalize and tax marijuana later in 2014. The marijuana Policy Project and other news reports showed that the state legislature adjourned in late June without voting on the outright legalization matter. That kicks the can down the road, although support seems more and more likely for an outright legalization.

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9. Vermont
> Pop. 626,000
> Sales tax $347 million

Vermont decriminalized marijuana in 2013 and already allows marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes. This treats pot about like a minor speeding ticket, as long as the amount you have in possession is under an ounce (or a pound of “infused” solid products or 72 ounces of liquid form). While far from outright legalization, Vermont is now among the leading states in the legalization efforts.

By Jon C. Ogg

Read more: The Next States Likely to Legalize Marijuana Include California, New York, Vermont, Oregon – 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/consumer-products/2014/07/10/the-next-9-states-to-legalize-marijuana/#ixzz37H1iFPDL
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